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#BornPerfect event raises awareness of conversion therapy
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2015-04-11

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About 125 people attended a rally calling for an end to conversion therapy practices on LGBT minors in Illinois April 9 at the Center on Halsted ( the Center ).

The "#BornPerfect: The Campaign to End Conversion Therapy in Illinois" rally sprung from the National Center for Lesbian Rights ( NCLR ) #BornPerfect campaign that was launched in June 2014. The Center hosted the rally.

NCLR's #BornPerfect campaign calls for a nation-wide ban on conversion therapy practices that are designed to change someone's sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Conversion therapy bans have already been signed into law in New Jersey, California and Washington, D.C. Each of these bills received bipartisan support.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy recently introduced a bill in the Illinois House of Representatives which would ban conversion therapy on LGBT minors. The bill ( HB 217 ) would create the Youth Mental Health Protection Act. A companion bill has also been introduced in Illinois Senate by state Sen. Daniel Biss ( SB 111 ). The bill has already passed out of committee in the House and is awaiting a vote by the full House during the 2015 spring session.

Just this past week President Obama, his administration and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy announced that they support state bans on conversion therapy for LGBT minors.

Jane Merrill, advocacy and community engagement manager at the the Center, provided words of welcome and an introduction ahead of the speakers remarks.

Speakers included Joy Messinger, Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health ( ICAH ) deputy director; Estefany Salcedo, ICAH Youth Leadership Council member; Dr. Tyler Fortman, the Center's staff psychologist; Zach Stafford, Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago community outreach coordinator and opinion columnist at The Guardian; Jason Bilbrey, Marin Foundation director of education and community relations; Ryan Kendall, NCLR's #BornPerfect national advisory committee member; and Patty Dillon, Equality Illinois' director of field operations.

"This is an issue that is very near and dear to my heart," said Messinger. Messinger explained that coming out to her parents was difficult because they didn't want to accept that she was a lesbian. She noted that she this issue ( banning conversion therapy ) is important to her because she believes that young people shouldn't be forced to live the way others want them to live.

Salcedo said that nobody should have to go through conversion therapy and/or be ashamed of who they are.

"Conversion therapy is treating something that isn't a disorder," said Fortman. Fortman noted that there is a consensus among all mental health organizations that conversion therapy is unnecessary, ineffective and dangerous.

Stafford said when he started thinking about the #BornPerfect campaign the thing that came to his mind were all the people who've been killed for being perfect, i.e., LGBT.

Bilbrey spoke about the shame that some LGBT people feel because they aren't straight and cisgender and the lengths that they will go to deny who they are.

Kendall explained that he underwent conversion therapy after his parents found out he was gay; after that experience, he ran away from home as a teen and got emancipated due to his family's lack of acceptance.

Dillon called on attendees to contact their state representative and senator, and urge them to support HB 217 and SB 111. She also asked that everyone contact Gov. Bruce Rauner's office and urge him to sign the bill once it reaches his desk. Dillon noted that Equality Illinois will be holding a lobby day on April 15 in Springfield. She explained that a bus will be at the the Center to transport those interested in attending the lobby day. Dillon said that those interested in attending on the 15th should contact the Equality Illinois office.

XCEND Columbia College Show Choir, poet/spoken-word artist Andy Karol and Get on the Floor Dance Company entertained. The event also featured a video of people sharing their #BornPerfect stories.

Hors d'oeuvres and desserts were courtesy of the Center's Culinary Arts Training Coordinator Chef Sean Bush.

For bill status updates, visit http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocTypeID=HB&DocNum=217&GAID=13&SessionID=88&LegID=83875.

See www.nclrights.org/explore-the-issues/bornperfect for more information.


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